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HomeHowWiring insulation: How to make the best choice for your wiring needs.

Wiring insulation: How to make the best choice for your wiring needs.

The electrical systems in our households and industries all use wiring insulation.

Its primary function is to cover and shield the metal core. This core is the conductive part of the wire and might be fatal if exposed.

As a result, wiring insulation is necessary for several reasons. These include safety, strength, and leak prevention. 

Also, cables now have color coding. It allows you to identify wires better.

These color-coded electrical cables include UF, Metal-Clad, NM-B, SE-R, and USE-2 Solar Wire.

Therefore, this guide is for you if you want to know more about these insulation cables and where to use them.

Table of Contents

What is an insulated wire?

It is a conductive wire covered with non-conductive material. This outer material helps stop leakage of electric current flow.

Therefore, the insulating material encloses and protects the cable or wire within.

Wires of all colors

(Wires of all colors)

Why do you need an insulated wire?

Insulated cables are essential for numerous reasons.

1. Safety measures

Insulating electrical wires is essential for maintaining safety and avoiding electric shock.

OSHA defines electrical dangers as exposed wires, worn insulation, and exposed insulation. 

2. Durability and Functionality

By nature, metals for wiring corrode when they are in contact with water. However, covering materials like steel and copper helps withstand such environmental conditions.

That is, insulation makes them last longer. 

3. Elimination of Leaks

Electrical leakage occurs when current escapes the cables. They now leak onto other components.

But with the help of insulation and grounding, you prevent wires from leaking current.

Find out how to further prevent electric shock risks with electronic plastic enclosures.

4. Use of color Coding

Electrical wires follow color coding under certain regulations to ensure consistency everywhere.

It helps electricians understand wire functions and their ideal amperage. For example:

  • Fifteen amps are the maximum rating for white-insulated 14-gauge wires.
  • Wires with 15-amp insulation are grey.
  • Cables with a black coating of six and eight gauges have 40 and 60 amps ratings, respectively. 
  • Meanwhile, wires with orange insulation are 10 gauge and rated for 30 amps.
  • On the other hand, yellow-insulated 12-gauge wires have a 20-amp rating.
Insulated wires with different color codes.

(Insulated wires with different color codes.)

Varieties of Wire Insulation Materials

They are of three major categories: 

Plastics

  • Polyethylene (PE): Polyethylene (PE) is mostly useful in low-power applications. This is due to its excellent electrical properties and cheap cost.
  • Polyurethane (PUR): It is popular for being flexible and resistant to abrasion.
  • Chlorinated Polyethylene (CPE) effectively withstands weathering, oils, and solvents.
  • Nylons: These materials have high mechanical strength. Also, they have better thermal stability and abrasion resistance.
Wires with insulating material against abrasion.

(Wires with insulating material against abrasion. )

Fluoropolymers

  • Perfluoroalkoxy (PFA) has a good reputation as well. It is excellent against harsh chemicals, weather, and high temperatures.
  • However, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is more efficient for its excellent electrical properties. It is also heat resistant and has a low coefficient of friction.
  • Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP): PTFE is similar to fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP). However, electricians find FEP more flexible because it has a lower melting point.
  • Ethylene Chlorotrifluoroethylene (ECTFE) is excellent in chemical and UV radiation resistance.
  • Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF) has great mechanical and chemical resistance.
  • Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE) are very flexible and chemically resistant.
Cable picture

(Cable picture)

Rubbers

  • Thermal Plastic Rubber (TPR): They are great for weather resistance. Excellent flexibility and low-temperature performance are the other main qualities.
  • Neoprene: It is also known as polychloroprene. Neoprene has high chemical resistance and mechanical strength.
  • SBR (Styrene Butadiene Rubber rubber) offers high mechanical strength and abrasion resistance.
  • Silicone: It is popular for its flexibility and resistance to high temperatures.
  • Ethylene Propylene Rubber (EPR): Offers good weather resistance and electrical insulation.
  • Rubber: It is common in applications needing high flexibility. Also, it is resistant to weather and abrasion.
  • Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene (CSPE) is resistant to UV light, chemicals, and other elements.
  • Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM): It has high resilience to chemicals and weathering.
Power cable

(Power cable)

Which Wire Insulation Is the Best?

The best wire insulation mainly depends on the intended electrical setting.

So to choose the best wiring insulation, check the following environmental conditions.

Flammable Areas: For explosive areas, it is crucial to use wire insulation. In addition, they should have flame-retardant and self-extinguishing qualities.

Fluoropolymers like PTFE, silicone rubber, and cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) are examples.

Outside Uses: Wire insulation for outdoor uses must withstand harsh environmental factors. They include high temperatures, moisture, and UV exposure.

You may choose outside insulation options. For example, use cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE).

Otherwise, use ethylene-propylene rubber (EPR), polyethylene (PE), or polypropylene (PP).

Damp Areas: Wire insulation must resist moisture and water infiltration. Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and neoprene are wet area insulations.

Chemical-sensitive Settings: This insulation setting is important for contact with chemicals.

An example is automobile wiring.

The popular chemical-resistant insulators here are PTFE, XLPE, and PVC.

Low-Temperature Conditions: The best wire insulation survives low temperatures.

Also, they do not crack or become brittle. Low-temperature insulating materials include thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), polypropylene, and polyethylene (PE).

Automobile cable wiring

(Automobile cable wiring)

Electrical Cable Types

Several types of electrical wires are useful for different things. Below are a few of them alongside their features:

Different types of cables

(Different types of cables)

NM-B (Non-Metallic Sheathed Cable)

NM-B is one of the best available electrical cables for interior house wiring.

It comprises a bare ground wire, three coated conductors, and a Plastic jacket.

Low-voltage devices like lights and outlets often utilize NM-B cable. Often, it is easy to install.

UF (Underground Feeder) wire

It is an electrical wire used for outside wiring. Its parts include PVC insulation, a weather-resistant jacket, and a copper conductor.

In most cases, UF cable is useful in low-voltage applications. Examples include irrigation systems and outdoor lighting.

Metal-Clad Cable

Others know it as the armored cable. It features metal jacketing that protects it from damage and electromagnetic interference.

Also, it has insulated conductors and a bare ground wire.

This kind of electrical cable is common in industrial and commercial applications.

Service Entrance-Round (SE-R) Cable

This electrical applies to outside wiring in homes. It usually consists of one to three insulated conductors, a bare ground wire, and a PVC jacket.

Low-voltage systems like outdoor lights and HVAC units often use SE-R wire.

USE-2 (Underground Service Entrance) Solar Cable

It has XLPE insulation, a stranded copper conductor, and a dark, UV-resistant jacket.

Therefore, it withstands extreme outdoor conditions.

The USE-2 solar wire is often popular among renewable energy applications. An example is solar panels.

Industrial electrical cable with XLPE insulation.

(Industrial electrical cable with XLPE insulation.)

Why Does Wire Corrosion Occur?

Some of the most frequent causes of wire corrosion include the following:

  • Chemicals: Wire corrosion may result from chemical exposure. Common corrosive chemicals exist as salts, acids, and alkalis. So by utilizing materials resistant to the specific chemicals present, you prevent corrosion.
  • Weather elements: High humidity and abrupt temperature changes cause wire corrosion. When metal meets moisture or humidity, it corrodes due to oxidation.
  • Flexibility: Constant bending or flexing of the wire might wear out and corrode the metal. In addition, moisture and chemicals penetrate the micro-cracks in the metal. This, therefore, leads to corrosion of the wire.
  • Pressure: When pressure is on the wire, it deforms and becomes weaker. However, corrosion occurs when the wire faces high pressure for an extended time. This effect is because extensive pressure weakens the metal. It, therefore, increases the chances of corrosion.
Corroded electrical control box.

(Corroded electrical control box.)

What Features Should You Consider?

The number of wiring options you have could seem overwhelming. But here are a few variables to observe when choosing the kind of insulation to use:

Electrical Properties

Always know the electrical properties of your different insulating materials. A significant factor is its dielectric strength.

Others are arc resistance, charging current, insulation resistance, and tracking sensitivity.

Mechanical Features

Also, understand each insulating material’s toughness and flexibility. In addition, consider its elongation, tensile strength, and crushing strength.

Its resistance to moisture or abrasions is another crucial feature.

Chemical Properties

Know how well your insulating material gathers moisture. Also, note how it holds up to sunlight, ozone, and flames.

Further, observe how well it resists gas, acids, oil, and alkalis. 

Thermal Features

Finally, ensure you know your insulating material’s thermal properties. This is its capacity for flow and softening temperature.

Also, check its contraction and expansion features.

Compliance with normal and short circuit conditions are other vital factors.

Colorful electrical wiring

(Colorful electrical wiring)

Conclusion

Insulated wire is essential for ensuring functional electrical systems. It also ensures reliability and durability.

Wiring projects are a lot easier with the color coding of insulated wires. In addition, it shields cables from corrosion and prevents electrical leakage. 

With our guide, you now know the best wiring insulation to use. If this post was helpful, check out our other blog posts here.

I am Lillian Yang, having been a sales manager for over 10 years.

I have received many positive reviews from customers. They have praised our excellent service, on-time delivery, and high-quality cable assemblies.

For your projects, please provide cable assembly files/images/smples, etc., so that I can send you a quotation within 24 hours.

Contact me now and let’s get started on building your wire harnesses!

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